The title Wonderstruck, a film about the mysterious connections between parents and kids, suggests the magic of being curious and young and the powerful forces of nature and family. Parallel stories of 12 year old Ben (Oakes Fegley) in rural Minnesota around 1977 and 12 year old Rose (Millicent Simmonds) in 1927 NYC eventually link in a way that only fantasy can allow.
Although this dramatic flight at times confuses the audience with its multiple relationships and time periods, it has director Todd Haynes's earnestness about the children's searches: Ben for the father he never knew and Rose for her beloved older brother. The tie that binds is the American Museum of Natural History and the dioramas in the Hall of North American Mammals with wolves to send Ben's mind back to the wolves of Minnesota.
Along the way appears Robert Moses' scale-model Panorama of NYC in the 1964 World's Fair linking Rose to her paper buildings in her Hoboken bedroom. Oh, yes, the uncommon tie that binds both explorers is their deafness, she from birth and he from a storm. Both are struck, she from film stars and he from lightning.
As Haynes did in Carol, he has an artist's appreciation for the fine details of the period: the romance of '20's pre-crash energy and the allure of silent transition to sound in film. How the two finally connect is an imperfect conjunction that tries to tie in the disparate details of both lives.
Wonderstruck is a lovely evocation of the nervous energy and creativity of youth and the joyful quiet of being deaf. Regardless of physical challenges, the film embraces our early search to connect with parents and set loose the creative energy latent in youth.
For the Hugo-like nostalgia buffs, this film will give them one more dose of the goodness that can come from the limitations of time and place.
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